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Nikolaos Sliousaregko, President of the Management Board of the HBA

New Investment Opportunities

The fact that Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić were present at the Greek-Serbian Business Forum marks a major shift in economic relations

Serbia has succeeded in preserving economic stability and investor confidence, as testified to by GDP growth over the past three years, as well as the growth of private sector employment and earnings. According to the estimates of analysts, the current year could prove favourable for the Serbian economy, considering predicted GDP growth of 3.5%, but also an anticipated drop in inflation and interest rates.

“The greatest challenge awaiting us certainly relates to energy products and fluctuations in their prices, which are difficult to predict. For our member companies, which predominantly hail from the construction sector, the hotel industry, the cement and sugar industries, the petroleum trade sector, recycling, the production of building materials and aluminium profiles, but also the service sector, the previous year proved successful, given that these sectors recorded growth in sales and services,” says Nikolaos Sliousaregko, president of the HBA Management Board. “Good prospects exist when it comes to the operations of Greek companies continuing to be successful in 2024,” says our interlocutor.

Considering that we are awaiting the formation of a new government, what would be your primary message for the cabinet?

— The Government of Serbia has been working actively for many years on the implementation of structural reforms, investing in the upgrading of infrastructure, promoting IT sector growth and implementing the Green Agenda, but also numerous other segments of the economy. Apart from this, and very importantly for our members, is continuous work on improving the business climate.

I believe that the new government will continue to work in this direction and that it will contribute to the further development of the business environment and enable the overcoming of the challenges confronting us, which relate to finding an adequate workforce, the long-term harmonisation with EU regulations and complicated procedures for obtaining various business permits, such as procedures related to import and export operations.

What impressions did you take away from the recent Serbian-Greek Business Forum that was attended by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić?

— Relations between our two countries – from bilateral and economic relations, to cultural and historical ones – have always shown themselves to be at an extremely high level, testifying to which are the regular visits of Greek officials to Serbia and Serbian officials to Greece.

The attendance of Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis and Serbian President Vučić at the recently held Serbian-Greek Business Forum testifies to the commitment and aspirations of the two countries to improve economic cooperation in multiple fields. One fact that’s of great importance is that the discussions noted specific sectors for the further improvement of cooperation, among them energy, oil pipelines, gas pipelines, gas purchases, renewable energy sources and transport infrastructure, but also President Vučić’s call for Greek banks to once again show an interest in the Serbian market. The Forum also confirmed a determination to cooperate in all fields, given that Prime Minister Mitsotakis arrived in Serbia accompanied by four ministers and a large business delegation that comprised representatives of 76 Greek companies, mainly from the energy, construction, manufacturing, real estate and banking sectors.

The EXPO will contribute to the development of tourism and the urbanisation of Belgrade, and the hotel sector will record high growth from this internationally acknowledged exhibition

The Forum served to confirm the existing strong economic ties between Serbia and Greece, while at the same time presenting new investment opportunities for Greek businesses in Serbia and major strides in advancing economic relations. We are particularly encouraged by the objective President Vučić set to increase the trade exchange between Serbia and Greece – which totalled 750 million euros last year – to more than two billion euros in the next three years. These intentions were also confirmed by Prime Minister Mitsotakis, who pointed out that Greek companies will be a major part of the success that will be achieved by the Serbian economy in the coming period.

How is the Hellenic Business Association preparing to leverage the opportunities presented by the six-billion-dollar investment plan in the Western Balkans?

— The EU growth plan provides a great opportunity for the Western Balkans, given that European institutions have the goal of using programmes within the plan to double the economies of the countries of the region in the next ten years. With the free movement of people, capital and services, as well as the Western Balkans common market, access to the European market will be enabled even before the countries become full EU member states. There are numerous possibilities for further business development within the four pillars of the Growth Plan, provided of course that the implementation of the reforms allows it.

Programmes linked to the decarbonisation of the energy sector and the implementation of the green agenda, as well as the further development of road transport, are areas in which Greek companies could contribute to the plan’s implementation. Our member companies have been active for many years in the construction and waste management sectors, while room to further improve cooperation in the energy sector exists with the scope of the Growth Plan. Specifically, Greece has made a largescale shift towards renewable energy sources that are mostly based on solar and wind energy, and Greek companies’ expertise in this sector could play a vital role in the implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans and the circular economy. In this sense, the Hellenic Business Association of Serbia will provide support to all Greek companies expressing an interest in participating in the Plan’s implementation.

To what extent is the hospitality industry benefiting from the positive developments associated with EXPO 2027 Belgrade?

— During the recent Serbian-Greek Forum and official addresses given by top officials of Serbia and Greece, we had an opportunity to hear about Serbia’s key development projects in the coming period, and EXPO 2027 certainly stands out among them. At the diplomatic level, Serbia will have an opportunity to demonstrate that it is capable of hosting foreign delegations and that it is open to the world. At the same time, the EXPO will contribute to the development of tourism and the urbanisation of the capital, considering the envisaged construction of completely new parts of the city. The hotel sector will certainly record high growth from this internationally acknowledged exhibition, particularly if we take into consideration the fact that 2.1 million tourists visited Serbia over the course of 2023 and that, according to President Vučić, 2.6 million more tourists are expected to arrive during EXPO 2027. Such numbers will certainly require the reorganisation of existing hotel facilities and the construction of completely new ones.

SUPPORT

The Hellenic Business Association of Serbia will provide support to all Greek companies expressing an interest in participating in the implementation of the European growth plan for the Western Balkans

EXPERTISE

Greek companies have expertise in the decarbonisation of the energy sector and the development of road transport and could contribute to the implementation of the plan for the Western Balkans in these areas

PROGRESS

Alongside a more favourable economic situation and the Serbian Government’s efforts to improve the business climate, the prospects of Greek companies continuing to operate successfully in 2024 are good